Alla faccia della Grande Bellezza (e in onore der Depardieu de Torpignattara), un pezzo di pianoforte romano-tosto (e per niente decadente)

Via Torpignattara, anni '50. Veduta del mercato e dell'incrocio con Via Casilina

“Via Torpignattara, anni ’50. Veduta del mercato e dell’incrocio con Via Casilina. Sullo sfondo Piazza della Marranella con l’abbeveratoio dei cavalli”. Cliccare per i credits, per altre immagini e accedere a un bel sito sul quartiere

Listen to this:
(by MoR, wait a few seconds)


ψ

Lello, er romanaccio Depardieu (always with us in spirit?) says:

“Un po’ contemporanea, ‘sta litania.”

Mario:

“What is this sh** …”

Experimenting (with
the Romanesco dialect)

[To the English-speaking: This post being partly written in the Romanesco dialect Google translations might be unpredictable]

[Al lettore italiano: parlare il romanesco, ok, ma scriverlo - e studiarlo come lingua - è un'altra cosa. 1° sperimento]

‘Nnamo (let’s start.)

Il Depardieu del Casilino

Gérard Depardieu al Film Festival di Brlino del 2010

Gérard Depardieu au Film Festival de Berlin (2010.)  Click for credits

Incontro Lello a un bar di Torpignattara. Sta ordinando una Ceres.

ψ

Ogni tanto ci capito, a Torpignattara, perché se hai fortuna incontri i romani veri – magari non del tempo di Tito (come gli ebrei del rione S. Angelo) – ma veri in ogni caso, di 7 generazioni.

ψ

Corpulento, sui 40 anni, i braccioni tatuati che se t’agguantano ti stritolano, Lello ha i tratti marcati e sarebbe il perfetto Gérard Depardieu del Casilino se fosse un po’ più gallico e un po’ meno scuro nei capelli e negli occhi.

Saltuariamente – al Pantheon, a piazza Navona, al centro, in definitiva – Lello compare e scompare come un fantasma suonando percussioni esotiche assieme a un contrabbassista emaciato, a un sassofonista colla panza tonda, e a un chitarrista eccezionale col cappello calato gli occhi quasi nascosti dalle rughe che pare sia di Birmingham

[Lello dice che è di Birmingham. Io gli credo]

Sorseggia la Ceres, guardandosi lentamente attorno. E’ il suo mondo, il suo ambiente.

Lello è un capo.

A ‘sto punto, dico, la ordino pure io, sta Danese perché, è così particolare, sto Lello, che voglio che mi si sciolga la lingua (che mi s’è come ingufita coll’età).

Sorrentino ce sta a fa’ neri

La Grande Bellezza

Toni Servillo as Jep Gambardella in ‘La Grande Bellezza’ by Paolo Sorrentino

Dico:

“Lello, a fijo de ‘na mignotta, vviè cqua!”

Si avvicina. Sempre pronto allo scambio umano, in realtà parla pochissimo. Annuisce.

“Ahó, possin’ammazzatte – dico – co’ sta Grande Bellezza Sorrentino ce sta a fa’ neri. Tutto il mondo parla di metafora: metafora qua, metafora là… mo’ pure gli Americani sur Nu York Times …”

Lello è impassibile. Un minuto, forse due.

Poi, guardandosi le unghie, ‘na finissima ironia nello sguardo, comincia un bofonchio, che cresce man mano e se fa cavernoso.

Capisco solo le ultime tre parole:

“[...] [...] [...] M-e-t-a-f-o-r-a de che”.

Una voce dall’antro. A sentirla di notte al buio … Depardieu me fa impazzì.

Gran bucio de c… profumato

la grande bellezza

Cerco di provocarlo (ho bisogno di fa’ casino, di distrarmi).

Provo – un’imitazione ok – a crescere piano piano pure io per poi dargli dentro dopo 20 esatte parole:

“Beh, metafora dell’Italia – dico ‘n sordina, preciso -, d’un paese destinato al declino, con Roma – girata bellissima, per carità (sennò perché il titolo), – che poi in verità è ‘na pattumiera, è solo ‘na cloaca pure un po’ fine ma inzomma, lo vogliamo dire CAZZO, è come ‘N GRAN BEL BUCIO DE CULO TUTTO PROFUMATO – so’ cavernosissimo – co’ tanto de mignotte, ruffiani, pretacci (e nani!!) – parossismo – CHE CE CAMMINAMO TUTTI SOPRA!!!!”

[Ok, non sarò Augusto Lello ecc, ma er romanesco lo mastico, mia nonna era de via Garibaldi]

The Great Beauty by

Altra pausa. Si bbeve. Er calore de ste Ceres comincia a impregnacce.

Lello, lo vedo, è un poco ‘allertato’

Poi, ‘na lievissima sfumatura de complicità (divertita?) Lello disce:

“Tutti sopra ‘sto bucio de culo”

“Tutti sopra ‘sto bucio de culo. Confermo” (mi guardo le unghie puro io)

“Che poi è profumato”
[non capisco se mi piglia per il culo; siamo romani, ok, ma Lello è tosto, niente da dire]

“Che è profumato. Riconfermo”. C’è  qualcosa che non va.

Ma sentendomi provocato sbotto, incazzato come Agosto (quello a piazza de’ Renzi 15, che si incazzava davvero, non era un fintone, e Sandro il figlio, l’ho visto piccolo, è come lui)

“Ma dimmi un po’ a Lello: a te te piasce? Vojo dì, a te te piasce che Sorrentinos mostri ste zozzerie al mondo???”

Credevo d’avello beccato ‘n pieno. Erore. Ridiventa ‘na statua. Che soggetto, minchia, e potrebbe esse mio figlio …  :?

ψ

A ripensarci, ora che lo scrivo, mi salta in quer boccino er solito carme:

[no 'n bbuzzuro stavolta, ma carme nella lingua delle madri che la sera deambulav... lasciamo perdere]

Gigante immobile e paonazzo
(e sanguigno, diciamolo, come sto pezzo di …. Bbacco).

ψ

Poi d’un tratto, uomo dalle infinite risorse, Lello trasfigura, la pelle je se chiazza, l’occhio sinistro mosso dan lieve tremito.

Allora t’ho colpito, stronzo. ma te sarai ‘ncazzato?

Via di Tor Pignattara anni '40 circa

Via di Tor Pignattara anni ’40 circa. Courtesy di Silvestro Gentile. Cliccare per i credits

Seconda Ceres. Lo seguo a ruota. Comincia, si direbbe, a approfondirsi na certa atmosfera che è solo de ‘ste parti … discorso lungo, da non fare ora (anche perché credo che ‘n ce porta a un cazzo).

Mario, homo novus
(e pallonaro)

Mario m’accompagna un bel giorno a Torpignattara.

E’ il classico chiacchierone fanfarone – niente a che vedere co gli Augusti, I Lelli -, al punto che la tragica diffusione di un simile ‘tipo psicologico’, qui, è uno dei motivi per cui molti italiani … sparlano di Roma.

Al bar mi parla di calcio, della sua vecchia Lancia vintage, delle ultime 10 partite (10!) di 4 squadre diverse. Non ci capisco molto.

Poi arriva Lello, e Mario commenta:

“Ma quello sta sempre zitto. Me sembra n’imbecille”.

[Ok, Lello-Depardieu sarà tranquillo - Mario non capisce un cavolo - ma già con gli occhi ti dice mille cose. Gli occhi di Mario, invece, esprimono il vuoto assoluto)

Dico:

"Imbecille? Errore grave, Mario mio, perché Lello, a te, t-e  s-e  m-a-g-n-a".

Nonostante calchi la voce Mario se ne fotte e scrolla le spalle (co gli occhi -quasi na punizione divina- che ripetono il nulla dell'anima).

[Che è st'anima? Che ne so. Ma che Mario l'anima non ce l'abbia mi sembra l'unica verità scientifica della storia della teologia]

Lello, antico,
laconico (e non cazzaro)

Lello è intelligentissimo, e, a differenza di Mario il cazzaro, ha un retroterra.

Sterminato.

Cerco di darvi un’idea.

ψ

Da 20 anni frequenta il centro storico (“la mia famiglia è de llì: co’ ggenitori, e i nonni, e i bisnonni, e i trisnonni -e via cantando- ci arrivi fino Adamo”).

Detto come una cantilena, difficile da spiegare, che è ritmata dalla ‘o’ di nonni (da dove viene? Mah).

ψ

Lo vedo ‘na volta al mese, anche meno oramai, ma so che c’è (e mi basta).

Lello è un capo, ripeto. Mi dà la fiducia di pensare che qui in Italia tanta gente (qualcuno al palo c’è, purtroppo) nonostante la crisi se la cava, ai vari livelli della gradinata sociale.

Nell’arte della sopravvivenza, romani e italiani, sono professionisti patentati, la storia è lì a dirlo.

E Lello, che il frescone e fannullone Mario non può capire, Lello in realtà fa.

Un piccolo
ma fiorente commercio

Lello lavora, s’ingegna.

Buon marito e buon padre di due figli, ha raggiunto la sua modesta prosperità con il commercio di cellulari e tablet a costo bassissimo, che la gente compra perché non gira più ‘na lira.

Da qualche anno s’è fatto 2 o 3 esercizietti (stanzine, in definitiva) che visita più volte al giorno, la faccia del boss autorevole ma pensoso, quasi pensasse ad altro (è però nota tutto e tutto sa).

Esercizietti che gli so’ gestiti da 3 marocchini svegli che gli fanno da bassa manco tanto bassa manovalanza, che lo rispettano, e che soprattutto je vogliono bene.

Sidi Bou Said, Tunisia. Gnu Free documentation License

Il Mediterraneo è una casa comune. Al commercio, si sa, non gli n’è mai fregato niente delle fedi diverse.

Lello dunque incede nel quartiere, coi tatuaggioni il nasone la faccia (e la stazza) del Depardieu zigano.

Una figura caratteristica come non ce ne saranno più in futuro (oppure no?) Ho sentito in giro a Roma giovanissimi di altri paesi che già parlano romanesco meglio di me.

Il tradizionale tuffo di Capodanno nel Tevere dal ponte Cavour di Roma

Il tradizionale tuffo di Capodanno nel Tevere dal ponte Cavour di Roma. Tanti sono stati i personaggi famosi in questo ‘sport’, almeno dal 1870 a oggi. Click for credits

Poi insomma cazzo (la terza Ceres, inesorabile …  :twisted:  ), ma a vede’ sti romani che se tuffano ancora da’ ponti (no Lello), con mezza falange in meno ar medio (sì Lello, cqui: ‘na sforbiciata a 16 anni).

Aaa vede’ cioè ‘sti tosti che s’industriano, che non aspettano tutto dar stato, ognuno col su’ stile, qui e in altre regioni del paese, spina dorsale che impedisce che il corpaccione italiano s’afflosci.

In altre parole, a vede’ na Roma e un’Italia positive nonostante le sofferenze, che non s’avvoltolano nella nevrosi, che non si prostituiscono, che non ballano nelle terrazze chic vista Colosseo con le narici incipriate, che non scopano le minorenni ai Parioli e nemmerno le minorenni slave sulla Salaria … cazzo!

A vede’ sti ggiovani che lottano, che imparano le lingue straniere,  che vanno ‘n culo ar monno dovunque ci sia ‘no stracciaccio de lavoro, e così facendo – poverini poverini si dice! – non diventano più deboli, ma più forti, fanghala, che si aprono la mente e il futuro …  (Mario – che mi sta vicino, compagno di scuola a cui infondo voglio bene, me dice: daje, famo notte).

Sorrentinoooos!

Neapolitan Paolo Sorrentino

Neapolitan Paolo Sorrentino. His success at the Academy Awards granted him a Roman honorary citizenship. Click or credits and to enlarge

Ok, ok, a Marioo, ma la domanda scusate che spontanea cazzo ce sorge a ‘sto punto fangulo è la seguente:

A’ Sorrentinoooos! Sarai puro Napoletano talentuoso (lo sei) ma la conosci veramente Roma? O sella conosci – non credo – non te sarai mica  ‘mbo’ incazzato perché l’ambiente del cinema romano – che è poi quello italiano – è ‘na Grande Zozzeria, cogli outsider che so’ outsider semper, tanto che Villaggio (puro Pupi Avati?) s’è addirittura ‘nbestialiddoooo?

Dice Fantozzi, ineffabile, a Mediaset:

“Sordi è il simbolo della ‘Grande Cattiveria’, la cattiveria dei Romani ‘che sono veramente, e profondamente, cattivi’ “

[detto poi con lo sguardo cattivo ... who's kidding who]

Dice che i Romani sono 'cattivi', e che Albertone è il simbolo della Grande Cattiveria.

Pianoforte romano

Ora, a me il film de Sorrentinos piasce, ma me fa puro ‘ncazzare.

Pertanto, in onore dei Lelli semper tosti e viventi (in periferia: l’hanno cacciati cogli sventramenti), residuo piccolo e coriaceo di una forza grande e suprema (passata, gone, dead).

In loro onore dicevo ‘sta musica di pianoforte dedico, da romano -più fortunato e sfortunato insieme- ad altro romano.

[Mario: "Sei un cazzone". Giovanni: "pure tu, stronzo, ma ti voglio bene"]

Pianoforte romano

Ripropossta pure qui (Mario: “per puro narcisismo, cojone” “Sei un fregnone – ma ciai raggione?” “Sì” “No” “sta minghiaaa”) :


Per te, e per tutti voi – (Gino, Sergio, Spartaco, Gianni e Samanta), oltre che pe’ sti napoletani a cui vojamo bene, no Mario? So’ i nostri cugini) – butto llà ‘sto pezzo de cazzo de pianoforte non decadente (me lo si permetta, Sorrentinooos).

Lello, romanaccio Depardieu, always with us in his a spirit, says:

“Un po’ contemporanea, ‘sta litania.

Certo, stronzo (no scusa Lello, scusa) ma nello spirito, almeno, e nell’anima (che abbiamo simili), ci metterà senza dubbio d’accordo ….

 

Roman Renaissance fountan

 

Ecco un clip del La Grande Bellezza, in tutta la sua struggente (in all its aching) … beauty bellezza.

Dulcis in fundo Pino Daniele, napoletano cantautore e chitarrista di vena raffinata, che canta Anna Magnani e il cinema romano.

[Così ricomponemo er tutto e famo pace :-) "Stronzi" "Frocioni" "So 'frocio ma me ne vanto" "Hai raggione" Ma il partenopeo "ste nutizie nu ssierve" Depaardieu mostra i braccioni "a fijo de ‘na mignotta, vviè cqua" ma viene travolto da' stilettata greca colta ... "ta' soreta è latrina, e matre, a te, na  pumpinare jamme jamme JAMME!!"]

Capitoline She-Wolf. Rome, Musei Capitolini. Public domain

Resources:

Provare tutto, dove si parla della ‘cugina greca’ di Roma, Νέα Πόλις
The Roman Jews (1). Are They the Most Ancient Romans Surviving?
Le coste meridionali del Mediterraneo
Dove si parla del legame tra sponda nord e sud (araba) del Mediterraneo
e della vocazione, oltre che universale, ‘mediterranea’, della Città Eterna.

Web site di dialetto partenopeo
[
Wiki francese: "Dans la mythologie grecque, Parthénope (en grec ancien Παρθενόπης / Parthenópês, « celle qui a un visage de jeune fille », de παρθένος / parthénos, « jeune fille », en particulier « vierge ») est une des sirènes...Strabon mentionne que son temple se situait dans la ville de Néapolis (actuelle Naples), où les habitants célébraient des jeux gymniques en son honneur.]

Poi, in tema di composizioni pianistiche (di resilience e- Mario -de fanfaroni”) :

L’inno all’Euro che non cede
L’hymne à l’Euro qui ne cède pas

Over at the Hannibal’s. Can We Really ‘Know’ the Greco-Romans? 1

Riots in Athens. Click for credits and larger picture

Here’s the promised conversation between Douglas and myself about the Greeks, the ‘dark side’ of the ancients and much much more.

Read the original conversation at the Hannibal blog where Andreas Kluth, a wonderful host, is btw the first German I stumbled upon – important to me – although Andreas is very Anglo-Saxon too.

He’s innocently unaware he’s like a perfect-to-me specimen from the German Roman Limes area … ;-) A great point of observation, kidding apart, for a blog like mine (read Roman Limes. Between Two Worlds.)

Now our vague-logic conversation, but let me say I’ve got another great tool for brain re-juicing outside blog dialectic: my Haman, or thermae, or simply my ‘thermal’ bath(room.)

No big deal, just a small place of comfort to test the effects of cold and hot water (& steam showers plus gymnastics,) and where many of the things I ponder get unexpected solutions (see Relax & Creativity.)

Roman Bath sign found in Sabratha, Libya. Click for credits and to zoom in. ‘Salvum lavisse’ was a greeting after a bath: ‘Well washed in health’.

The Ancients, Do We Idealize Them?

Andreas: Cheri speaks as though from my own heart in lamenting the Greeks. How, oh how, to reconcile their ancient grandeur with their Euro-busting, book-cooking financial profligacy of today?”

[Cheri, another great blogger and about to go to Athens, had expressed preoccupation for the riots etc. See the picture at the top, MoR]

Thomas Stazyk: “One of the Greek protesters was interviewed on BBC and said: “They [gov't officials] stole all the money. Then they borrowed more money and stole that!”

MoR: “Allow me to disagree a bit here. I won’t discuss here the Greek failure – linked to Greek sins surely, but also to problems created elsewhere.

As I said over at Cheri’s, the beauty of going to Greece, to parts of Southern Italy (even to Rome), Turkey, Northern Africa etc. is the time machine thing. We don’t go there to see things working – if we want just that we should keep going to Sweden, North Germany or the US. When we go to the Med – or even more to India etc. – we go to see places and especially people – not only monuments – caught in the past, living remnants of an ancient world we are not always satisfied to admire from a library. This is the beauty of such trips. Of course there is a price to be paid. My daughter, 26, is now working in Mumbai for a month. She has started to love Mumbai immensely, but she is also paying a price for it.

This for today’s survivals of the past. As for the ancients themselves, Cheri suspects she is idealizing them a bit. I do it often too. But if we read attentively the ancient Greek texts (the Roman ones are no different) we don’t have only Pericles or Aristotle, but horrible poverty, thousands of slaves abused or, even worse, dying slowly in the Athenian silver mines, child prostitution widespread in ways not easily imaginable, the Macedonians (Alexander and his father included) ending up their dinners in wild and drunken orgies most of the time.

Greek adult with a slave boy. Click for credits

In the oration against Neaira, [pseudo] Demosthenes reconstructs with horrifying details 50 years of the life of a prostitute. It is a depiction of what could have been the life of an outcast in 4th century BCE Greece.”

[oration's text at Perseus Digital Library]

Life of the Common Citizen

Douglas: “MoR, it is always the elites we are told of in the histories. Those who ruled, who were influential, who owned property, who were the ‘movers and shakers’ of whatever society (or culture) we delve into. The life of the common citizen is seldom mentioned.”

MoR: “Douglas, there’s not only the histories (and often even the histories are non conventional, like Herodotus and Suetonius, or even Plutarch) but all sorts of comedies, and novels, Greek and Roman, that depict everyday life (upper and lower classes and slaves too), plus, as I said, the speeches of the lawyers full of realistic details, & satires mocking follies (Juvenal etc.) or epigrams like Martial’s, so colourful but also shocking for their details on brutality in Rome. I mean, there’s plenty of records of the ancients’ everyday life, which may sounds often disgusting to us (they had different ethical codes) and totally non puritanical. I am not that expert in any case, I am just a dilettante having fun connecting the modern and ancient – a very ‘edgy’ place antiquity. My problem is this language. I write in English with all sort of dictionaries. Fascinating, but painful.”

Pollice Verso, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824 –1904). Public domain, click to zoom in

Douglas: “Please do not misunderstand me but who wrote those histories? All writing, all observations, reflects the perspective of the writer. In that, they are written as they are seen, not as they perhaps are.

Take any given incident, collect the witnesses, ask them what happened. Only by a collection of perspectives can one gain a knowledge of what actually occurred. Even in that there is an element of bias on the part of the one piecing it together.

So, yes, I am sure the life of an average Roman was not all orgies, high living, and wine-soaked afternoons at the Colosseum. Life was cruel for those who had no family connections, money, or position of power. It does not take a genius to figure this out.

But histories do not reflect the average person’s life. They reflect the life of those in power, those with influence, and those who achieved.

Or, put another way, you do not learn how the scribe lived but how his patron did.

I could ask you, what is the life of the average Roman today? You would answer from your perspective. You might not understand how life is for the people who deliver the goods to the market or keep the phones working or whose family must all work in order to pay the bills.

In the end, it comes down to what is the ‘average person’ and how that status is determined.”

Augustine and Monica, (1846), by Ary Scheffer. Click to enlarge

MoR:

“But histories do not reflect the average person’s life.

Of course they don’t, although I don’t get what you mean by histories. Surely life of the ancients was not all orgies or wine soaked days spent at the Colosseum, but it seems likely it did not know the sexual repression of Christianity [see above Augustine, too an 'open-minded' Pagan first, too a strict Christian later], at least at certain periods, conditions, places. And, frankly, I don’t see what’s the big deal about it.

I could ask you, what is the life of the average Roman today? You would answer from your perspective.

The ancients we will probably never know who they really were but what is certain is, they were VERY different. Take a god like Dionysus Bacchus, worshipped by the poor and the rich alike, almost all around ritual madness, ecstasy and, basically, eroticism: it is painted sculpted carved EVERYWHERE in both Rome and Greece.

The term ’the ancients’ is of course too vague. There are plenty of scholars’ books depicting everyday life – for different classes – in 5th century Athens or Augustus’ Rome or Alexandria at the times of this or that monarch. They are just guesses based on the sources we have which is not much but it is growing because research is progressing (for example we see the reasons of the Fall of Rome quite differently now from what we thought, say, 50 years ago, but I am shifting).

We will never know what was the real life of a Roman at Caesar’s time, for example, like, even for today, you are right, my testimony of contemporary Rome is certainly subjective and partial, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

Douglas: “Let me put it another way, my friend… What do you suppose the literacy rate was in, say, ancient Rome?
Of current times and high (comparatively to ancient times) literacy rates, what percentage of people visit our vast array of museums, operas, ballets, and such?I say we can only know what we are told and what we are told is dictated by the mindsets, biases, and consciences of those that can pass the knowledge on. We cannot know what is true.”

[to be continued; read part 2]

Do Music and Numbers Pervade the Universe? A Night of Dionysian Revelry

 

Pythagoreans celebrate sunrise - Fyodor Bronnikov (1827—1902). Click for a larger picture

 

As you know I have been musing on Pythagoras of Samos recently (Ὁ Πυθαγόρας ὁ Σάμιος). I wrote about him in my blog and in other blogs.

P was a great mathematician. Now it turns almost all bloggers MoR has been discussing with (also on P) have some math capabilities. MoR has instead very little. So he asked his friend Extropian for help.

Extropian is laconic and doesn’t like blogs. So he first sent this movie and just said: “This stuff is Pythagorean.”

He then added: “Here following is the rationale behind the movie.”

He also sent me this paper on Pythagoras & Eugene Wigner that requires a degree in physics to figure out what the hell it means.

Finally he linked to another movie and declared:

“You became a pianist but you’ll always be longing for the strings of a guitar, of a violin or of a lute. Pythagoras started a new world-view with the strings of a lyre. You may like this.”

I hope this will not be the music of the future (only because it sounds too robotic). But the 3d animation intuitively shows better than any book on acoustics the relation between the string lengths and the sounds: ie by pressing the strings the robotic fingers change their lengths which produces a change in pitch.

And my friend is right. From the age of 12 I was a decent guitarist then I turned into a pianist at 18, a big mistake, one out of many.

A Crazy Night of Revel

In the spring of 1995 – I’m only apparently digressing – my wife and I came back home from a party. Oh we had had such fun! She though went straight to bed being tired from a hard day at her office. I remained alone in the living room, feeling weird and restless.

There I saw my electronic keyboard, a Korg 01 WFD – now prehistoric – connected to a Mac and two Protei (Proteus 1 and 2.) Before laying my hands on the glowing keys I knew what I needed that night: fat strings sounds more than just piano sounds.

The result was a dozen improvisations that lead to nowhere and sound now so badly because of analogical worn out tapes and especially when compared to the pro stuff you’ve heard above. They though retain a personal value to me. They ex-press (in the literal meaning of ‘squeeze out’) one of the most authentic musical revelry I ever experienced in my life.

I mean, if Dionysus-Bacchus ever exists I’m pretty sure I met him that night [another mysterious Dionysian experience is described here. And, Pythagoras and the Dionysian experience are tightly connected, so no digression as I said.]

3-4 pieces out of 12 I still like a bit. I’m waiting for my digital DAT recorder to be repaired so I can have better sources of my musical ramblings.

Here are 2 from that night in .mp3 format.


ψ

Related posts:

Two Piano Improvisations

Silvestri, Berlusconi and the Emperor Tiberius

After the No-B(erlusconi)-day last saturday Dicember 5 in Rome (a great success I am witness of) the singer–songwriter Daniele Silvestri has posted on Youtube a rap called L’imperatore Tiberio.

[It reminds me just a bit of the traditional Tammurriate danced in the South of Italy and possibly related to the ancient rites of Dionysus Bacchus - watch this.]

The rap is captivating, the insertion of Totò (a great Italian actor) is exhilarating, and the song time is beat with the syllables of “Ber-lus-co-ni di-me-tti-ti”, i.e. ‘Berlusconi resign.’

L’imperatore Tiberio
aveva donne di lusso

a cui teneva un discorso
sul ginocchio sinistro.

Poi emanava un editto
che toglieva di mezzo

chi chiedeva giustizia,
chi ne dava notizia.

E si vantava Tiberio
coi suoi amici più illustri

con gli aneddoti sconci
divertiva i ministri.

Ma sfuggiva i giudizi
sui reati commessi

nascondendo pasticci
per motivi fittizzi.

Emperor Tiberius
Had women luxurious

Whom he used to lecture
They sitting on his knee.

He then issued an edict
With which he got rid

Of those who asked for justice,
Of those who gave the news.

And bragging was Tiberius
With friends the most illustrious

With anecdotes obscene
His ministers he entertained.

But he escaped verdicts
On crimes committed

By hiding his mess
With points fictitious.

Read how Mary Beard in the UK Times compares Berlusconi to the Roman emperor Tiberius.

And, thanks to zeusiswatching, here’s the life of Tiberius by the Roman historian Suetonius – not for minors ok?

Ψ

Related posts from our blog:

Caesar, Great Man (and Don Juan)
Is Berlusconi’s Power About to Decline?
October 3. Demonstration Held in Rome to Defend Media Freedom

UPDATE: Just a few hours ago Berlusconi was hit in the face with a model of Milan’s cathedral and knocked to the ground.

He had just finished a speech during a political rally in the centre of the Italian Northern city. According to ANSA the alleged attacker had received many years of treatment for mental disease. Berlusconi is now being taken care of in a Milan hospital and his condition doesn’t seem serious.

A signal of how harsh the political climate is getting in our country, and a horrible gesture to be firmly condemned whatever opinion we may have of Berlusconi and his policy.

100 Posts. I’ll Celebrate My Own Way. 1

This me at dinner in San Francisco last Semptember

Some time ago my friend Mario, who never writes comments but reads friends’ blogs, called me saying:

“Is this coffee talk going anywhere?”

He referred to my posts and to the dialogues with my readers. We make fun of each other since we were 14, so it is all right. But since my blog has reached a bit more than 100 writings (105,) a little celebration is appropriate together with a sort of assessment of whether this is really just coffee writing. I have then thought to answer him officially in this way.

I’ll write a few blog or site maps [update: see the 1rst] containing reasoned summaries of the ideas expressed in the Man of Roma’s blog, with links to the corresponding posts, notes and conversations.

These posts will not be written in tight succession – it would be too heavy – and will be to the benefit of those interested in finding their bearings in our “coffee musings” – an interesting American blog is called Café Philos, a nice name it’d be vile to steal.

Not that Mario needs any answer. He already had many on the phone, with four-letter words. Our classroom style btw, a bit unleashed to tell the truth.

We were all males, the only unhappy exception in our school due to the headmaster’s unfathomable genius, so we lacked that element of moderation, gentleness – the woman -  that makes boys a little bit more civilised (and careful.)

I remember the last time (one year ago) we had a classroom celebration at a restaurant. Imagine ten well-dressed professional-looking 60-year-old men sitting at an elegant restaurant table in down town Rome and turning gradually into 10 unleashed kids once food and especially wine had started to work on us.

The waitress who was serving our table had to blush a few times. She of course was one of the targets of our joyful (and childish) attention. A couple of us especially are socially unacceptable – Marken Albus, for example – whenever they find their old buddies back. I confess I sometimes felt terribly embarrassed. But I’m being a bit hypocritical. I had huge fun and, who knows, the waitress a bit too perhaps, since she was blushing though smiling at us and I think she kept coming to our table more often than necessary.

The show was actually unusual. I doesn’t happen all the time to see ten apparently serious 60-year-old men turn into absolute morons and behave like kids.

When we are together we are bad, very bad. Fortunately it doesn’t happen very often.

(to be continued)

Sex and the City (of Rome). 4

Ancient women wrestling. Or a man and a woman?

Ancient women wrestling. Or a man and a woman?

Italian version

Let us then have a look at a collection of the erotic artefacts found in the ancient Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

We already know that these frescoes, mosaics, statues etc. shocked the Victorians so much (see our first Post on Roman Sex).

Additionally, an interesting account in French of the best of them (60, with corresponding beautiful lithographs) was written by an unknown author, a certain ‘Colonel Fanin’ (or Famin? A Mistake in the English translation? see later) and published I guess illegally in 1816 in a limited edition by a French antiquarian (Stanislas Marie César Famin: ‘Colonel Fanin’ himself I guess) with the help of the Neapolitans (this French guy and Rome’s Greek cousins were such terrible brats, weren’t they.)

[On the matter, a History today's take; a good French blog's take]

It is revealing (and funny) how 19th Century Europe got so scared of this book. All known original copies were destroyed by the French government though two at least survived. One was hidden in the private case of the British Museum, another ended up in the Library of Congress in Washington. I am pretty sure some billionaire possesses some other copy somewhere in the world.

Roman Sex scene

One of those ‘abominable monuments to human licentiousness’. Click for source at a French blog

In 1871 the book was translated into English and went through many pirate (and forbidden) editions. It can now be viewed in the Internet, the problem of the English copy it comes from being the horrible colour separations of the reproduced lithographs.

We do not need to show you all the lithographs and the corresponding comments since you can browse them yourself. These comments seem to me both highly cultivated and captivating. The author appears torn between aroused curiosity, admiration and condemnation.

Below you can see Plate VI (Invocation to Priapus) reproducing a bas-relief which depicted a married couple performing a home sacrifice to this God of fertility.

Plate VI (Invocation to Priapus)

Here is the comment by the author:

“EVERYTHING in this bas-relief indicates an interior scene, an act of candour and piety, and not a disgusting orgy. The a married pair, clad as decently as the nature of the sacrifice to which they are about to proceed will allow, seem to be asking the god who presides over generation to put an end to a grievous sterility; the expressive gestures of the woman, especially, bear out this explanation. The husband is occupied in stretching out a curtain which is to veil from profane eyes the mysteries of the sacrifice”…

“The god, represented with the figure of a bald-headed and bearded old man, reposes on a little column, before which we observe a kind of altar erected in haste by the married pair, on which they have placed some oak-leaves and the pine-apple which surmounted the thyrsus of the priestesses of Bacchus.”

The Image in Plate XLVIII ( 48 ) reproduces a fresco from Pompeii. It is much more erotic and equally unconventional compared to today’s sexual manners.

Plate XLVIII (48). Spinthria

“A YOUNG and beautiful married couple are amorously toying on a small bed. A lighted lamp shows that the scene takes place at night-time … the young man is carelessly stretched on his back, while his obliging companion, seated astraddle over him, is left to perform the principal part. In the background may be seen the cubicular slave, who is attentively watching the voluptuous pastime, and seems to be even looking on it with a lustful eye–

Masturbabantur phrygii post ostia servi,
Hectoreo quoties sederat uxor equo.”

Well, I won’t translate these two verses by the Roman poet Martial, but the cubicular ( = in bedroom) slave was common and had to serve his/her masters whenever requested.

Scenes like this have been realised in the 2005 HBO/BBC TV series Rome, “a fictionalized account of Caesar’s rise and fall” (Wikipedia.)

People were mainly shocked by these and other sex scenes, also those who praised the TV series (many did, critics included.) I think it was a pretty good experiment aiming at showing some Roman history together with pre-Christian sexual (and non sexual) habits. The latter didn’t save the series since the former was too heavy for contemporary audiences.

I liked the series though – one of the finest reconstructions of Ancient Rome I’ve ever saw- and I highly recommend it.

HBO/BBC television series Rome

“This fresco – we are getting back to our mysterious author – is not without merit as regards its execution. The woman appears strong and well-formed; her fair hair falls over her shoulders in wavy curls. The man is beardless, but his stature is tall, and everything about him denotes a youth full of vigour and fire. The bed, a very inconvenient one for such sports, is … supported by four legs, too slender to resist long if they were not made of iron, a custom which has been perpetuated down to our own day in the south of Italy. It is, nevertheless, possible that this piece of furniture … was composed of a substance more precious than gold, for at the period of the decline, to which this painting belongs, luxury was carried to such a degree among the Romans, that it surpassed even the most marvellous stories of Eastern poets.”

Colonel Fanin tries here in my view to justify such unrestrained manners with the concept of decline but it must be noted that Rome at the times of Pompeii was instead at her apex from every point of view.

He then makes another mistake about the colour of Roman women’s hair (historians having proved that Roman hair was of any colour.)

“The Roman ladies attached great value to fair hair, though Nature had given them such beautiful black hair. It was indeed their habitual custom to have their heads shaved, and to cover them with light hair, which the young girls of Germany or Gaul sold them at fabulously high prices.”

It is true though that the fair and red hair colour was appreciated. Romans were open to a wide world of possibilities, being at the head a vast world.

He here gives us a lively image of Roman unrestrained wealth:

“Every part of the known world at that time contributed to subserve the reckless and mad luxury of the Romans. India sent them fine pearl necklaces, valued at several millions of sistertii; Arabia, her sweetest perfumes; Alexandria, Tyre, and Asia Minor, precious stuffs worked with gold and silk; Sidon, its metal or glass mirrors. Other countries sent to Rome purple, gold, silver, bronze, all the productions both of art and nature, the choicest wines, and the rarest animals. Under the later Scipio, men of high authority at Rome were seen wasting their substance with favourites, others with courtezans, or in concerts and costly feasts, having contracted, during the Persian war, the Greek tastes; and this disorder grew into a madness among the youths.”

Capitoline She-Wolf. Rome, Musei Capitolini. Public domain


Related posts:

Sex and the city (of Rome) 1
Sex and the city (of Rome) 2

Sex and the city (of Rome) 3
Sex and the city (of Rome). A Conclusion.

Caesar, Great Man (and Don Juan)

Country Philosopher

Diogene by Raffaello. School of Athens. Fair use

‘Country Philosopher’ has been mentioned often in this blog so it is time I introduce him to readers.

His name is Dario Bernazza and what amazed me the day I read one of his books is the fact that he makes use of reason in the way the Ancients did, as if later thought almost didn’t exist.

Free from doubt, he has total faith in the absolute power of rationality and his philosophical manner is natural and naïve. He applies his ancient-like method to both big issues – the existence of God or how we can reach happiness – (see Vivere alla massima espressione) – and everyday problems, in an effort to provide answers to our contemporary void by making use of techniques similar to those utilized by Epicurean and Stoic thinkers 2000 years ago (see his image below, the best I could find to date.)

Dario Bernazza

Therefore, with all due respect to professional philosophers like Fernando Savater (who will probably be invited to our Symposium,) Bernazza will be here as well though with caution, having a few flaws in my opinion, last but not least the tendency to manipulate or influence readers a bit.

Still fighting in the Jungle

The Jap Soldier in the Jungle

Bizarre example of philosophical genuineness – and cultural isolation as well, which kind of preserved him – Country Philosopher is the Japanese soldier who keeps on fighting in the jungle since ages, having no other weapon than his argumentation and being almost unaware of the fact that the times of Socrates, Plato or Zeno of Citium are no more.

CP is a survivor of the classical world.

That all this could happen is both romantic & tragic. And perhaps in no place other than this – the countryside around Rome, (Priverno, Latina), or in the Mezzogiorno – a person like him could spring.

Living Fossils of Antiquity

How many are the Italian country intellectuals? Sparse over the territory they publish their works with their own money by using small local publishing houses and having no great number of readers (the Web didn’t exist at the time of CP.)

This phenomenon is not exclusively Italian.

Here though 1) historical layers are extremely rich and 2) an important part of the classical world originated in this country, which allows us to legitimately speak of living fossils of Antiquity.

In some way, in the Central and especially South regions of Italia, many of us are like fossils, with all the inadequacies towards modernity that this may imply (corrupt patronage systems, amoral familism, clientelism etc.). We retain good qualities as well, which are not dried up yet, I do hope.

The better part of our tradition should be revalued. In the present crisis of the West, due to a great uncertainty regarding our fundamental values, these cultural fragments of the classical world – such as philosophy replacing religion to provide full meanings in life etc. – should be re-examined and updated.

We need to achieve – at a high culture level – what has already been done with peasants’ cultures at a folklore level - for example in Latium and Campania, where, recently rediscovered and re-performed ancient folk dances and tunes, reveal fascinating residues of the rites of Dionysus, among the rest.

See this Tammurriata dance from the South of Italy, of possible Greek descent.

A type of research which is actually on the way. The Festival of philosophy in Modena for example (see picture below) has been a great success with 120 thousand presences during only 3 days last year and a seventh successful 3-days edition which ended this last September 16 2007. This formula, thanks to contributions of the European Community, has been exported to both France and the Czech Republic.

Il Festival della Filosofia di Modena

As a conclusion, the great philosophers of all times can certainly guide us towards a more meaningful life, beyond any doubt. Nonetheless, these living fossils surviving in niches of a forgotten sea – of lesser value and possibly deteriorated, like prehistoric sequences of DNA – represent survivals of a past that keeps on talking to us.

They keep the fascination of our knotty olive wood, of our scented myrtle, or of the bright yellow of our ginestras.

And they mean something to us which, in spite of all, we cannot but be proud of.

Ψ

More on Dario Bernazza:

Ethical Confusion & Ancient Teachings
Assets and Liabilities in Life
Living to Our Fullest Potential
Health and Serenity of Soul.

Italian version

Sex and the City (of Rome). 2

Lovers. Herculaneum Fresco. Public Domain

Lovers. Herculaneum Fresco. Public Domain

Italian version

As we have said in the first post regarding Sex and the city of Rome the ancient Greco-Romans had a totally different attitude towards sex and enjoyed a sensuality open to possibilities whose variety can confuse contemporary people (in spite of what we Westerners think of our sexual liberation) to the extent that what we are about to narrate could offend people’s feelings. We therefore ask for pardon but we also make known to minors and prudish people to please not read any further.

God Priapus' weighing his phallus. House of the Vettii, Pompeii

God Priapus ‘weighing himself’. Fresco from the House of the Vettii, Pompeii. Click for credits and to enlarge

Open sensuality? Yes, since for example the sacred poet Virgil probably sighed for Alexis, a beautiful boy; Horace celebrated incest, adultery and sex with female slaves; Ovid, Petronius and Catullus went a lot further (we might see later); not to mention the Roman phallic festivals like the Liberalia, held on the 17th of March …

“… where a monstrous phallus was carried in procession in a car… and the most respectable of the matrons ceremoniously crowned the head of the phallus with a garland”, or festivals like the Bacchanalia where similarly a huge phallus was carried and “as in the Liberalia, the festivities being carried on into the night, as the celebrators became heated with wine, they degenerated into the extreme of licentiousness, in which people indulged without a blush in the most infamous vices.”

This is Victorian Thomas Wright‘s opinion (1810-1877, English antiquarian and writer), not Man of Roma’s (see the Wright’s original text where our two quotes are from.)

Auguste (Maurice François Giuslain) Léveque (1864-1921). Bacchanalia. Public Domain

Auguste (Maurice François Giuslain) Léveque (1864-1921). Bacchanalia. Public Domain

Before trying to understand what is left today of these distant habits (the post title actually refers to survivals of ancient behaviours in today’s world, we’ll see why), we are going to provide a few detailed illustrations of this freer (or different, in any case) attitude .

So we’ll start by mentioning a Roman goddess, Dea Bona (‘Good Goddess’) and a scandal occurred at the time of great Julius Caesar.

Roman Dea Bona

Roman Bona Dea (Good Goddess)

Roman Bona Dea (Good Goddess)

In Roman religion Dea Bona (Latin for ‘Good Goddess’) was a “deity of fruitfulness, both in the earth and in women … The dedication day of her temple on the Aventine was celebrated May 1. Her temple was cared for and attended by women only, and the same was the case at a second celebration, at the beginning of December, in the house of the Pontifex Maximus [the chief Roman Priest, today's Pope being still the Pontifex Maximus of Rome], where the Pontifex’s wife and the Vestal Virgins ran the ceremony.” (Bona Dea. 2007. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved December 9, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online.)

I wonder if the online Britannica is exact here, since the December celebration was conducted “by the wife of the senior magistrate present in Rome in his home” (any senior magistrate then: Pontifex, consul etc.). In fact, according to Plutarch (2nd cent. A.D., Life of Cicero 19.3, 20.1-2) when Cicero was consul, the day he made the famous speech which is known as his third Catiline oration, he was escorted in the night “to the house of a friend and neighbour; his own being occupied by women who were celebrating the secret rites of the goddess whom the Romans call Bona.”

Dea Bona’s Image

Roman Bona Dea

The December festival was more interesting than the May one since “it was not held in the goddess’ temple … it was an invitation-only affair and pretty exclusive”. The wife of the magistrate managed the whole thing during the night, all was secret and occurred in a context of classy luxury (quote from here.)

What was happening during these secret-sacred rites from which men were strictly excluded? Surely it was something like a mystery cult, hence little we know about it (maybe you can find something in Macrobius’ Saturnalia). According to the Latin poet Juvenal, who wrote his satires many generations later (but who was also probably a bit of a misogynist), the Bona rites included drunken orgies among women (Juvenalis Sat. vi, l. 314):

“Well known to all are the mysteries
of the Good Goddess,
when the flute stirs the loins
and the Maenads of Priapus sweep along,
frenzied alike by the horn-blowing and the wine,
whirling their locks and howling.
What foul longings burn within their breasts!
What cries they utter as the passion palpitates within!
How drenched their limbs in torrents of old wine!
Saufeia challenges the slave-girls to a contest….”

(See a complete version in English prose of Juvenal Satire 6, plus the same passage in Latin verses).

Well, what happened in the house of Julius Caesar according to Plutarch seems to confirm Juvenal’s opinion. Let’s see why.

Sacrilege in Julius Caesar’s house

Two Roman Women. Fair use

Dramatis personae

ψ

The scandal broke during the Dea Bona December ceremonies in 62 BC, when Julius Caesar was Pontifex Maximus. This is why the celebration took place in his house. Caesar of course was absent, being a man. The way it all developed seems to confirm Juvenal’s view, as we have said.

As Plutarch writes, our great source of the Ancient world (Life of Caesar 9-10):

“(9.1) Publius Clodius was a man of noble birth and notable for his wealth and reputation, but not even the most notorious scoundrels came close to him in insolence and audacity. Clodius was in love with Caesar’s wife Pompeia, and she was not unwilling. But a close watch was kept on the women’s apartment, and Caesar’s mother Aurelia followed the young wife around and made it difficult and dangerous for the lovers to meet.”

“(9.3) The Romans have a goddess whom they call Good… It is unlawful for a man to approach or to be in the house when the rites are celebrated. The women, alone by themselves, are said to perform rites that conform to Orphic ritual during the sacred ceremony.”

“(10.1) At the time [when the incident occurred] Pompeia was celebrating this ritual; Clodius did not yet have a beard and for this reason thought that he would escape detection if he were dressed up as [woman] lyre-player, and went into the house looking like a young woman. He found the doors open and was led in without difficulty by a slave-woman who was in on the plot; this woman went to Pompeia and told her, and some time passed, but Clodius could not bear to wait, and as he was wandering around the large house and trying to avoid the lights, one of Aurelia’s [female] attendants got hold of him, and asked him to play with her, as one woman might with another, and when he refused, she dragged him before the others and asked who he was and where he came from.”

“(10.3) Clodius said that he was waiting for Pompeia’s slave Abra (which happened to be the woman’s name), and gave himself away by his voice. The [woman] attendant dashed away from him towards the lights and the crowd, shouting that she had caught a man. The women were terrified, and Aurelia called a halt to the rites of the goddess and hid the sacred objects; she ordered the doors to be shut and went around the house with torches, looking for Clodius. He was found in the room that belonged to the girl where he had gone in an attempt to escape. When he was discovered, he was taken through the doors by the women and thrown out of the house. That night the women went right off and told their husbands about the affair, and during the day the story spread through the city that Clodius had been involved in sacrilege and had committed injustice against not only those he had insulted, but the city and the gods.

“(10.5) Clodius was indicted for sacrilege by one of the tribunes, and the most influential senators joined forces against him and testified about other dreadful outrages he had committed and his incest with his sister.”

[Her name was Clodia - prob. the slutty Lesbia loved by Catullus - a perpetual scandal like her brother Clodius. We'll probably talk about her again, it is important in our view of Roman sex. In the painting below you can see Catullus visiting aristocratic Lesbia's mansion, a nice work by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 - 1912,) an interesting painter of late nineteenth century Britain]

Catullus at Lesbia’s by Sir Laurence Alma Tadema. 1836-1912. 1865

[Online Britannica: “In December 62, when the winter ceremony of the Bona Dea (from which men were excluded) was celebrated in the house of Julius Caesar, a man believed to be Clodius was discovered disguised as a female harpist among the participants. Charged with incestum he was tried before the Senate...Caesar divorced his wife in suspicion that she had admitted Clodius to the ceremony....Clodius maintained he had been at Interamna, 90 miles (145 km) from Rome, on the day in question, but Cicero, who abused the defendant intemperately, presented evidence to the contrary. Clodius was acquitted, perhaps because the jury had been bribed, but immediately began to devise ways to revenge himself on Cicero.” (Clodius Pulcher, Publius. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 9 Dec. 2007) ]

Plutarch (10.6): “Caesar immediately divorced Pompeia, but when he was summoned as a witness in the trial said that he knew nothing about the accusations against Clodius. The prosecutor asked him about the apparent contradiction: ‘why then did you divorce your wife?’ He answered, ‘because I thought my wife should be above suspicion’….Clodius was acquitted because most of the jurors handed in their opinions in illegible writing, so that they would not endanger themselves with the common people by voting against him, or disgrace themselves with the nobility by letting him off.”

ψ

I think the reason Caesar supported Clodius was because they belonged to the same common people (democratic) party. Clodius was popular and influential therefore deemed useful by Caesar for his own political career.

ψ

Related posts:

Sex and the city (of Rome) 1
Sex and the city (of Rome) 3
Sex and the city (of Rome) 4
Sex and the city (of Rome). A Conclusion.

Caesar, Great Man (and Don Juan)

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